A Google View of Data Sharing
At the Map World Forum in Hyderabad, India, Michael
Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, shared his views on the
benefits of standards. Google is an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
principal member and supports efforts to encourage standards adoption.
Google has a "democratized" view of data sharing which begins with the
vast amount of information that has already been captured by those
working in GIS. Jones believes in ways to provide better access to
those data. He explained that most geospatial data today is locked away
in workstations managed by proprietary software. He was perhaps
referring to those data controlled by local and state government
departments. "We have to envision a future world where data is
published," he said. "We may want to knock on the door of the Survey of
India and ask them what data they want to share with the world." Jones'
vision is to have "all" geospatial information available to the world
and indexed in a way that it can be accessed by those who need it.
"Google has a mission to allow more data to be available and
interoperable," he said.
Jones is not necessarily concerned with which version of Geography
Markup Language (GML) or Web Feature Service (WFS), both OGC standards,
is used. He believes the OGC's job is to educate the world about
developing standards, because the OGC can gather people to share ideas
about their needs. Jones explained that "the conversation leading up to
the standard is what's important." He described the OGC as "the United
Nations of geospatial users" and highlighted the need for people to
"have a path to share data."
"What I see in a year from now is a very different world for geospatial
data," said Jones. "The connection between people and mapping is that
it is convenient and needed ... If [data] become more convenient, they
become more widely used. Mapping is turning from a science only known
by GIS professionals ... to amateurs that receive the work of
Jones gave an example of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake of October 2005
in Pakistan that killed nearly 1,400 people. The earthquake was
centered in the Pakistani-controlled Kashmir region whose boundary with
India is in dispute. Google approached the Pakistani government to ask
permission to use the imagery of the earthquake. The original response
was negative, but with pressure from the United Nations, the Pakistani
government shared images of the area, which included the disputed
border area, to support non-governmental organizations' rescue efforts
in the region.
Jones asked the audience whether, if the earthquake had been on the
Indian side of the border, the Indian government would have allowed use
of the imagery. An unidentified member of the audience immediately said
"no." Jones encouraged the audience to reconsider how geospatial data
can be shared in a more useful way. Certainly, agreements of sharing
data, even between countries, are a critical foundation that fosters
Published Friday, February 2nd, 2007